Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 23 June 2011 12:10 UK

Sectarianism legislation debate

The general principles of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill were agreed at decison time following this debate.

The vote came after first minister's questions when Alex Salmond told MSPs the new anti-sectarian legislation would be delayed by six months.

During the first stage debate, Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham defended the original timetable for the bill on 23 June 2011.

The Scottish government published its proposals for legislation to tackle sectarianism related to football, including tough new prison terms, last week.

The bill aims to stamp out abusive behaviour from football fans whether they are watching matches in a stadium, in the pub or commenting online.

It would raise the maximum jail term from six months to five years.

There had been widespread concern about the speed with which the legislation is being scrutinised by the parliament and Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs all opposed the SNP plans to rush the bill through the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Cunningham, who has special responsibility to tackle sectarianism, said: "A few weeks have passed now but we mustn't forget where we were at the end of the last football season.

"We were faced by some of the most shameful behaviour and incidents seen in many years, broadcast and reported repeatedly, seen throughout the world.

"Disorder, bigotry, threats and ultimately bullets and bombs through the post. These scenes shamed Scottish football but also they shamed Scotland."

She said the bill is a "direct response", describing the legislation as short and sharp.

Before the debate began MSPs voted 78-39 to allow the bill to start its emergency passage through the parliament.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "When we legislate at this pace we make mistakes. It's happened before and it will happen again."

James Kelly Labour's justice spokesman said: "The arguments in favour of taking this legislation as emergency procedure have been flimsy," he said.


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